Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 8
When working the fantasy baseball waiver wire, it's better to strike a week early than wait too long.
Injured players and prospects often get highlighted around these parts before MLB clubs activate them. By then, it's usually too late, especially for a weekly column where all players must remain available in over half of Yahoo Sports leagues.
While the aggressiveness has paid off for anybody who stashed Kevin Gausman, it proved premature for Anthony DeSclafani and Eduardo Rodriguez, who have yet to return from the disabled list.
This week, a trio of middle infielders warrant consideration under this category. They probably won't provide any return until June, but they won't sit on the waiver wire for long.
Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros
Yangervis Solarte, 1B/2B/3B, San Diego Padres
Danny Santana, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins
Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees
Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Ervin Santana, SP, Minnesota Twins
Ryan Buchter, RP, San Diego Padres
Ryan Rua, 1B/OF, Texas Rangers
Logan Morrison, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
Nolan Reimold, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Mike Clevinger, SP, Cleveland Indians
Matt Shoemaker, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Christian Bethancourt, C, San Diego Padres
Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres
Alex Reyes, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Casey Kelly, SP, Atlanta Braves
10. Jake Diekman, RP, Texas Rangers (6 Percent Owned)
Shawn Tolleson forced the Texas Rangers to finally pull him from the closer's role by allowing a walk-off grand slam to Khris Davis on Tuesday night. Having relinquished 15 runs over 14 innings, Tolleson will move down the bullpen hierarchy in favor of Sam Dyson.
It's too late to tout Dyson, who is claimed in 59 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues. Those in the other 41 percent should grab him now, as he recorded the Rangers' last two save opportunities. Deep-league owners playing the long game, however, should take a look at Jake Diekman.
Dyson is sporting a 2.14 ERA and 70.2 ground-ball rate, but last year's 75.3 contact percentage has ballooned to 84.4. As a result, he has an uninspiring 15 strikeouts in 21 frames. All those ground balls should mitigate those issues, but he's far from a lock to stay the closer all season.
Diekman, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies alongside Cole Hamels, has proved a valuable acquisition. The 29-year-old southpaw has accrued a 2.20 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, recording 23 strikeouts and four walks over 16.1 innings. He has piled up the punchouts throughout his career, but his improved control could vault him into special territory.
Because of his fascinating story, Matt Bush is getting more attention as a speculative add. Making his MLB debut 12 years after getting selected with the No. 1 overall pick, the 30-year-old has allowed one hit over 4.2 shutout innings. He's certainly worth watching, but mixed leaguers should let him develop a larger sample size before jumping to conclusions.
Diekman is the superior middle-relief option, and he's pitching well enough to use without receiving any saves boost.
9. Colby Lewis, SP, Texas Rangers (30 Percent Owned)
Colby Lewis will not sustain his current 2.75 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. If everyone thought he could, the Rangers righty wouldn't remain available in 72 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues.
Most folks are too smart these days to trust nine strong starts from a 36-year-old with a career 4.70 ERA. The stat-savvy gamer will also see his 4.44 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 92.3 percent strand rate as giant red flags for looming regression.
They probably should, but let's give the veteran some credit. Over his past four starts—each lasting seven innings—Lewis registered 24 strikeouts to two walks. All the more impressive, two of those outings came against the Toronto Blue Jays, and he most recently blanked the Houston Astros' power bats on Friday.
He has issued 54 walks over his last 42 starts, so broaching his 7.25 career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) would give him mixed-league value in the right matchup. Barring any changes to Texas' rotation, he'll next take the mound against the Los Angeles Angels, who have hit fewer home runs (37) than any American League club.
He's probably no more than an American League version of Bartolo Colon, whose greatest asset is feasting on weak National League foes without worrying about the designated hitter. Not exactly a glowing endorsement, but Lewis at least warrants a look in most formats.
8. Steve Pearce, 1B/2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays (35 Percent Owned)
Steve Pearce has more home runs (six) and walks (nine) than strikeouts (five) in May. He's hitting .312/.404/.570 for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. With Logan Forsythe on the disabled list, he's now their regular second baseman.
This is coming from a guy who hit .218 last year, but Pearce has produced potent offense before. Two years ago, he batted .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers and five steals over 383 plate appearances for the Baltimore Orioles. There's plenty of pop in his bat, and elevated contact points to him maintaining enough of his batting-average gains.
The biggest question mark: How will added exposure to righties affect his results? The 33-year-old has inflicted more damage against southpaws, batting .432 with five homers. Unless he harnesses more power versus righties, his sizzling slash line will regress.
Yet his early returns are too impressive to overlook. Only Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve wield a higher wOBA among second basemen. At the least, he's worst keeping around to play exclusively against lefties—a tedious but worthwhile chore for gamers in leagues with daily lineup moves.
7. Matt Wisler, SP, Atlanta Braves (18 Percent Owned)
A frequent resident of the Honorable Mentions section, Matt Wisler finally cracks the top 10 after two consecutive seven-strikeout outings.
An underwhelming strikeout tally has hindered the 23-year-old righty from receiving further recognition. Even after his latest success, his K/9 stands as a subpar 6.34—not a usable number in most mixed leagues.
But this is only his first full season, so there's room for growth. Although the Atlanta Braves starter won't maintain his 2.93 ERA or 0.99 WHIP, a rise in whiffs could maintain his relevancy as a solid back-end starter.
Also in his defense, his two worst starts of 2016 came against the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, who respectively rank No. 1 and 2 in weighted on-base average. He also collected one of those seven-strikeout performances on the road against the Kansas City Royals, one of baseball's toughest offenses to fan.
Best saved for deeper leagues due to a lack of strikeouts and win potential, Wisler can add some depth to a fantasy rotation.
6. Trayce Thompson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (11 Percent Owned)
In hindsight, it seems silly that nobody paid more attention to Trayce Thompson before the 2016 season. Before getting traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the outfielder notched an .896 OPS over 135 plate appearances with the Chicago White Sox.
No clear path to playing time erased any sleeper appeal, but Andre Ethier's injury led to sporadic starts, which he has now pushed into a regular role. The younger brother to Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson—does that make him Stephen Curry's step-Splash Brother?—owns a .280/.343/.559 line and seven homers in 102 plate appearances.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has taken notice and started the 25-year-old in each of the last seven games. Carl Crawford and Enrique Hernandez aren't giving the skipper any reasons not to present Thompson with an extended audition.
Aside from a higher strikeout percentage, his numbers bare a striking resemblance to his quiet rookie success. As for those punchouts, he has actually increased his contact rate slightly. Since reaching the majors, all he has done is hit.
Thompson looks like a right-handed version of Ethier who could possibly deliver 20 homers with a full season of regular playing time. Ethier's return could push them into a platoon, but he's still weeks away from his original timetable. For now, use Thompson as a sneaky source of power in deeper leagues.
5. Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (24 Percent Owned)
This time last year, Devon Travis was the bee's knees. The Toronto Blue Jays second baseman began his MLB career in grand fashion by batting .325/.393/.625 with six homers and 19 RBI through the opening month.
He only hit two homers in the ensuing months, and his season ended in July due to a shoulder injury. As a result, not many people stashed the unproven middle infielder recovering from offseason surgery.
Fantasy players are a fickle bunch, but they should now recall Travis offering an .859 OPS last year. The 25-year-old began his rehab appearance for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Thursday. Per the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy, he's eager to rejoin the Blue Jays.
“I’m so excited to be here," Travis said. "I’m excited to get back on the field again. I’m excited to be playing with a purpose.”
Toronto should be just as anxious for his 2016 debut. In Travis' absence, his replacements have collectively notched a .270 on-base percentage. Whoever adds him shouldn't expect April's level of dominance, but he brandishes promising power and plays in a hitter's park with a powerful lineup that should heat up.
4. Chris Herrmann, C, Arizona Diamondbacks (27 Percent Owned)
Wait, is this the same Chris Herrmann who hit .181/.249/.280 as a seldom-used reserve for the Minnesota Twins from 2012 to 2015? A catcher even hardcore baseball junkies might not have known entering this season?
Yes, baseball is weird. That Chris Herrmann is now hitting .290/.342/.609 with five home runs in 24 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had previously gone deep six times in 142 career contests.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks purchased a catcher-rejuvenation machine. This tale bares a striking semblance to Welington Castillo's 2015 breakthrough. After getting tossed aside by the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners, he clubbed 17 homers in 80 games for Arizona. Instead of falling back to earth, Castillo has emerged as a top-five fantasy catcher.
The latest reclamation project behind the plate enjoys a seismic 52.0 hard-hit percentage—a higher rate than any qualified hitter holds. Per BaseballSavant.com's spray chart, Herrmann barely missed two more homers with triples traveling 388.66 and 416.35 feet.
No sane outsider could have envisioned this, so everyone is forgiven for exuding some healthy skepticism. Herrmann is probably no more than a hot hand to exploit until the bottom falls out, but there's always the chance he's a late bloomer whose significant progress sticks. If that's the case, he could join Castillo as a premium catcher.
3. Trea Turner, 2B, Washington Nationals (32 Percent Owned)
Enough critics have panned the Washington Nationals for keeping Trea Turner in the minors. While the prized middle-infield prospect is hitting .317/.381/.466 in Triple-A, Danny Espinosa carries a disastrous .206/.313/.294 line.
Rather than rhetorically shouting "What are they thinking?", let's examine their possible thought process. Espinosa hasn't hit, but he boasts a strong glove for a team that spent years tolerating Ian Desmond's errors.
For all the Turner hype, he wasn't much better in his late MLB audition last year. In 27 games, he hit an Espinosa-esque .225/.295/.325. And it's of course highly likely service time comes into play.
Whether or not financial frugality fueled Washington's patience, the excuse will soon vanish. The Washington Post's James Wagner detailed Turner's status:
Turner accrued 45 days last season in the majors — evidence the Nationals weren’t concerned about service time. So to ensure he doesn’t accrue a full year of service time this year, he needs to spend 57 days in the minors. That would mean he could come up on May 30, stay on the roster the rest of the season and only have 171 days accrued. As a result, the Nationals would have a so-called seventh year of control over Turner, through the 2022 season.
Promoting him on May 30 would look suspicious, but the Nationals wouldn't be the first team to exploit the system in such a shady manner. Even if it means he's two or three weeks away, fantasy players shouldn't wait for that day to arrive.
Already owned in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues, Turner isn't flying under anyone's radar. The 22-year-old has stolen 15 bases in as many attempts this year, and he has the skills to accrue a high batting average at the next level.
Don't expect an impact on par with last year's crop of epic young shortstops, but Turner will make a serviceable middle infielder once Washington makes the call.
2. Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals (22 Percent Owned)
One of 2016's first significant injuries, Jhonny Peralta spurned early drafters by suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb during spring training. Some gamers lost patience and dropped him, and others with the option steered clear of drafting the injured shortstop.
Now it's time to stash the veteran, who began his rehab assignment on Friday night. The St. Louis Cardinals have given no timetable for his minor league stay, which can last a maximum of 20 days.
As a result of Aledmys Diaz's emergence, Peralta returns to a crowded infield. Diaz has made the most of his opportunity by batting .352 with 15 doubles and six home runs. Yet the 25-year-old rookie has struggled at shortstop, which could lead to defensive realigning.
Hitting .247/.333/.323, second baseman Kolten Wong's playing time is in jeopardy. Per MLB.com's Nick Krueger, the Cardinals intend to use Peralta at shortstop and third base during his rehab stint. Giving him reps at the hot corner could preface Matt Carpenter moving back to second.
St. Louis certainly has options, but all of them should involve playing Peralta, a career .268/.331/.426 hitter who has procured double-digit homers in each of the last 11 seasons. He also doesn't receive enough credit for his steady glove, which one of baseball's worst defenses could certainly use. Once he returns, the typically unheralded shortstop will once again offer valuable power at a feeble position.
1. Alex Wood, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (45 Percent Owned)
For most people, this recommendation comes a week or two too late. Alex Wood will probably surpass the 50 percent ownership barrier by his next start, meaning he's only still available in casual 10- or 12-team mixed leagues.
After a shaky start, Wood is looking more like the breakout star of 2014. The 25-year-old lefty accumulated 13 punchouts against the San Diego Padres on Saturday, giving him 43 strikeouts over his last five outings. He has walked five batters during those 30.1 innings.
His 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP aren't spectacular, but a 3.30 FIP and 3.28 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) reflect his rebound. The Dodgers hurler now sports 9.64 K/9, 2.81 BB/9 and a 54.3 ground-ball percentage.
Wood wielded an underwhelming 3.84 ERA and 6.60 K/9 last season, but he earned a 2.78 ERA and 8.91 K/9 two years ago. By gaining velocity and relying more on his off-speed offerings, he has boosted his swinging-strike percentage from 8.2 to 9.8, which is right on board with 2014's 9.7 rate.
It's too late for most managers, but some will have one last opportunity to snag a potential No. 3 or 4 mixed-league starter.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.